UN confirms increased attacks on staff in 2013

New York, Jan 9 : Working for the United Nations became more dangerous last year, the world body's staff union warned on Wednesday, noting that at least 58 personnel were targeted by terrorists and insurgents.

The highest number of casualties occurred in attacks targeting the UN in South Sudan, Somalia, and in the Darfur region of Sudan, according to the figures released on Wednesday by the Staff Union's Standing Committee for the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service.

It found that 33 peacekeepers and 25 civilians and associated personnel were killed in 2013 while working for the Organization. The number represents an increase in the death-toll from attacks on UN staff members compared with the previous year, when 37 UN personnel were killed.

Among the horrific assaults was the killing of 12 people associated with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) during an ambush on 9 April 2013 in Jonglei State.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in New York said about 30 peacekeepers were escorting a civilian convoy when they were ambushed by some 200 armed, unidentified men near the settlement of Gumuruk. The firefight that followed killed five Indian peacekeepers, two national staff and five contractors.

Overall, 16 peacekeepers were killed in Darfur, seven in South Sudan, four in Mali and four in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Staff Union reported.

In addition, five civilian staff members, four of them working for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), were killed in Syria.

The Staff Union's overview comes just months after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Member States and Host Governments to support all measures of safety and security measures to improve the operational environment for UN personnel and humanitarian workers.

"United Nations personnel serve in an increasingly dangerous environment and encounter a variety of threats not previously encountered in the history of the Organization," Ban told the 193-member General Assembly.

He cited a UN report released last year, 'Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations', which showed that significant security incidents affecting UN staff in 2012 increased to 1,793 compared with 1,759 in 2011.

Violent acts were cited as the primary cause of death or injuries during 2012, with 20 of the 35 deaths attributed to this, while 15 staffers were killed in safety-related incidents.

--IBNS (Posted on 09-01-2014)

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